Hitchens’s Razor

Hitchens’s razor is an epistemological razor expressed by writer Christopher Hitchens. It says that the burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim; if this burden is not met, then the claim is unfounded, and its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it.

Hitchens has phrased the razor in writing as

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

Hitchens's Razor

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”
Hitchens’s Razor

Origin

The concept, named after journalist, author, and avowed atheist Christopher Hitchens, echoes Occam’s razor. The dictum appears in Hitchens’s 2007 book titled God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It takes a stronger stance than the Sagan standard (“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”), instead applying to even non-extraordinary claims.

It has been compared to the Latin proverb quod grātīs asseritur, grātīs negātur (“What is asserted gratuitously may be denied gratuitously”), which was commonly used in the 19th century.

See also

References

  • Ratcliffe, Susan, ed. (2016). “Oxford Essential Quotations: Facts”Oxford Reference (4 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191826719. Retrieved 4 November 2020What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
  • McGrattan, Cillian (2016). The Politics of Trauma and Peace-Building: Lessons from Northern Ireland. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 2. ISBN 978-1138775183.
  • Antony, Michael (2010). “Where’s The Evidence?”Philosophy Now: a magazine of ideas. Issue 78. Retrieved 19 June 2019As Christopher Hitchens is fond of saying, ‘what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.’
  • Hitchens, Christopher (6 April 2009). God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Kindle ed.). Twelve Books. p. 258. ASIN B00287KD4QWhat can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. This is even more true when the ‘evidence’ eventually offered is so shoddy and self-interested.
  • Kinsley, Michael (13 May 2007). “In God, Distrust”The New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2019Hitchens is attracted repeatedly to the principle of Occam’s razor
  • Melchior, Jillian (21 September 2017). “Inside the Madness at Evergreen State”The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 June 2019Mr. Coffman cited Christopher Hitchens’s variation of Occam’s razor: ‘What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without’ [evidence]
  • Hitchens, Christopher (6 April 2009). God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Kindle ed.). Twelve Books. p. 119. ASIN B00287KD4Q[William Ockham] devised a ‘principle of economy,’ popularly known as ‘Ockham’s razor,’ which relied for its effect on disposing of unnecessary assumptions and accepting the first sufficient explanation or cause. ‘Do not multiply entities beyond necessity.’ This principle extends itself. ‘Everything which is explained through positing something different from the act of understanding,’ he wrote, ‘can be explained without positing such a distinct thing.’
  • Hitchens, Christopher (2007). God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York, NY: Twelve Books. p. 150ISBN 978-1843545743.
  • Reinhardt, Damion (25 July 2015). “The Long History of Hitchens’ Razor”Skeptic Ink. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  • Jon R. StoneThe Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), p. 101.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia